Irrawaddy fishermen head for land

Fishermen off Burma’s southern Irrawaddy coastline have been told to return to shore as more heavy storms are predicted.

It follows fears that thousands are missing or dead in the Gulf of Martaban after a storm last week destroyed clusters of shrimping boats close to the mouth of Hpyarpon river, southwest of Rangoon.

Locals said that Hpyarpon township’s Department of Fisheries on Wednesday evening transmitted radio messages to fishermen docked off the coast after reports of strong winds in southern Burma’s Tenasserim division.

State media announced earlier this week that Burmese navy teams had rescued 3,600 people adrift at sea from the 16 March storm, but have remained silent on how many more could be in danger.

This time of year sees the Irrawaddy stretch of coastline littered with thousands of bamboo-made barges collecting shrimps. Some reports from survivors said they saw hundreds of bodies floating in the water, some crushed between rafts.

Aid agencies, including World Vision, Save the Children, and the UN Development Programme, who have teams operating in southern Burma told DVB they know nothing of the situation down there.

A member of Hpyarpon township’s Naungme village council told DVB that the names of locals from there were on the missing persons list.

“We are just checking lists – some have arrived back but there are also some who went missing in the boats,” he said. “There are around 100 people [from Naungme] missing so far, and the list is not yet completed

He added that there were around 2400 fishermen in that village alone, and authorities were going from door to door checking with their families.

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